• Do “Feminist Fathers” Fail Their Daughters?

    You might have seen this picture popping up across social media recently. The image displays the back of a shirt which reads:

    “Rules for Dating My Daughter

    1. I don’t make the rules
    2. You don’t make the rules
    3. She makes the rules
    4. Her body, her rules

    Feminist Father”


    Before I dive in, let me preface my remarks by saying that I believe the man wearing this shirt does love and does, indeed, want what’s best for his daughter. Regardless of how a woman presents herself, that does not excuse inappropriate behavior toward her. Period. That being said, placed against the backdrop of society today, this shirt sends the wrong message.

    It is absolutely, without question, the role and duty of a father to set boundaries and make an effort to ensure his daughter, and others, are treating her with respect. Implying one does not have an interest in the creation and enforcement of those guidelines leaves fatherhood in a sad, uninvolved state.

    I suspect the message is intended to project empowerment for young women, but to me it suggests indifference in the actions of the daughter – actions that could end up hurting her happiness. Taking a step back, since when do children (in this case, a 20 year-old girl) make good rules, let alone follow them? The late teens and early 20s present challenging times for a young person – many struggle to make sense of their emotions, make the transition to adulthood and find their place in the world. Leaving them at their own devices to plot their own destiny without guidance or correction seems like it would only set them up for failure, not success.

    All women should be treated with respect, kindness and love. But we men, sadly, fail at this repeatedly. Perhaps the best arrow a girl can have in her quiver against the bad eggs of the world is an on-guard-father, ready to pounce on any man seeking to do his daughter injustice. By observing this love and desire for her to be treated respectfully and with love, a daughter can conclude that she is valuable beyond measure and deserving of only the best from any male friend or romantic interest.

    Taking it a step further, what if a daughter interprets “her body, her rules” to mean she should take drugs, or engage in other risky behavior? At what point does this logic fail miserably? How far will the message be misinterpreted? Saying “she makes the rules” implies a lot, and that’s the problem.

    Knowing this, do “feminist fathers” fail their daughters? In their quest to support their daughters, are they actually setting her up for disappointment? What kind of men will she attract? Will it be one that values, respects and protects her – or one that exploits her sexuality, disregards her feelings and diminishes her worth?

    While it may no longer be popular these days to advocate for an invested and protective father figure I think it is in the best interest of daughters everywhere to have just that – and it is something I hope to one day become.

    Niklas Warren

    Niklas Warren is a communications professional for a global agency. He has a master’s degree in strategic communication and a bachelor’s degree in political science. He previously served in the Bush Administration in the office of presidential speechwriting at the White House, as well as the Department of Justice. His opinions do not reflect those of his employer.

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